In nature, bird flu kills more than half of the humans it infects -- but it's very hard to catch.
So when two research teams -- one led by Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Center, in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and the other by Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin in Madison -- recently engineered bird flu strains that passed easily between mammals, people worried: would rogue groups get hold of the virus and use it as a weapon of terror? Would they use the research to engineer their own contagious strains?
Hoping to play it safe, the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, a U.S. government advisory panel, asked the journals Science and Nature to delay publication of the research until a system could be set up to allow scientists who need access to the work to see it while keeping sensitive information from dangerous hands.
The journals complied, but a heated debate about the research ensued. As the scientific community ponders how to proceed, the journal Nature on Sunday published a series of comment articles by experts that underscore how complicated the process will be.